Job done. Can we get down to business now, please okes?
The real point of Pakistan’s tour was to prepare for the World Cup – which starts in less than five months
As satisfying as SA’s Test series whitewash is, and as bloody well as they’ve played, the real point of Pakistan’s tour was to prepare for the World Cup – the start of which is now less than five months away.
So the sharp end of Pakistan’s visit will be upon us at St George’s Park on Saturday, when the first of five one-day internationals will be played.
But we wouldn’t be doing SA’s Test team justice if we didn’t allow the limelight to linger over them for a moment.
Faf du Plessis’ 103 at Newlands was a timely reminder of the grit he brings to the crease, just as it was good to see Quinton de Kock’s talent blaze again in his 138-ball 129 at the Wanderers. De Kock hadn’t scored a Test century in two years in which he had 37 innings, but was in the 90s twice and the 80s once.
Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram had two half-centuries each, all of them important signifiers of progress.
And then there’s Duanne Olivier, previously a brute force of a fast bowler, now a skilled practitioner of the trade whose haul of 24 wickets at 14.70 left him only one scalp short of the SA record for a three-match series.
Olivier confirmed his dominance in the third over of what became the last day at the series at the Wanderers on Monday when he dismissed Babar Azam, Pakistan’s leading batter, and their nuggety captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, with consecutive deliveries.
That tipped the visitors, who started the day needing 228 more runs to win with seven wickets standing, over the edge. They added 120 before being bowled out an over into the extra half-hour taken at the morning session.
So much for all that. What’s the deal for Saturday?
Du Plessis, Amla, De Kock, Dane Paterson, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn are the survivors from the Test squad who will also be part of the ODI series. Paterson remains unblooded in whites.
The newcomers are Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi and Rassie van der Dussen, the only uncapped player in the 14.
Pakistan have also come to fine tune for the World Cup. Only four of the 16 who played in the Test series are going home. Happily, Babar is still around. He scored a pair of fine 70s in the Tests and enjoined a memorable battle with Steyn that will, it is to be hoped, be rejoined in the ODIs.
Of their new arrivals the names of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will ring more than a few bells. They have earned almost 500 ODI caps between them, and scored 20 centuries and taken 293 wickets.
Pitches for the ODIs will be less lively than the Test surfaces, but whether they will be able to mimic the conditions that await in England’s summer is the more important question.
Only five more sleeps until we find out.